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Jean-François Houle receives multi-year contract and stays with Laval Rocket

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The Habs' farm team reached the AHL playoffs in two of Houle's three seasons as a bench player.

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Jean-François Houle is not going anywhere.

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Laval Rockets general manager John Sedgwick announced Wednesday that the team has agreed to a multi-year contract with its head coach. Assistant coach Martin Laperrière, goaltending coach Marco Marciano and video coach Charles Juneau have also agreed to multi-year contract extensions.

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Earlier this month, the Rocket announced that assistant coach Kelly Buchberger would be leaving the team after three years as a defenceman. The former NHL player will become head coach and GM of the Devon Xtreme, a new team in the Alberta Junior Hockey League that will compete next season. Buchberger, a native of Saskatchewan, played 17 seasons in the NHL, including 12 with the Edmonton Oilers.

“Jean-François Houle has done an outstanding job as head coach of the Laval Rocket since his hiring in 2021,” Sedgwick said in a press release. “He and his staff have demonstrated the ability to balance team performance with player development, creating both a competitive culture and an ideal environment for the growth and maturation of our young players.”

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The Rockets, who have a very young roster, failed to make the playoffs this season and finished last in the North Division with a record of 33-31-8.

“His teams have made two playoff appearances in three years, including a semifinal appearance in the 2021-22 Calder Cup, and Jean-François and his staff have done an outstanding job during that time preparing numerous players to make the jump to the National Hockey League,” said Sedgwick. “His strong values, attention to detail and dedication to his craft, combined with over 20 years of coaching experience in four different leagues, make Houle the ideal fit for the Laval Rocket and Montreal Canadiens. The AHL represents a critical step in the development of many future NHL players and we are confident that Jean-François is the right person to continue to oversee that process.”

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As a player, Houle was part of the Lac St. Louis Lions team that won the 1992 Air Canada Cup national midget championship before heading to Northwood School in Lake Placid, NY. He was selected by the Canadiens in the fourth round of the 1993 NHL Draft and then spent four seasons at Clarkson University. He then moved to the minor leagues for five years, including a full season with the Fredericton Canadiens in the AHL, before becoming a coach.

Houle was an assistant coach at Clarkson for seven seasons, then head coach of the QMJHL's Lewiston MAINEiacs for two seasons and head coach of the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada for three seasons. After posting a 40-22-6 record in his first season with the Armada in 2011-12, Houle won the Ron Lapointe Trophy as the QMJHL's top coach.

Houle then served as head coach of the Bakersfield Condors in the ECHL for one season, followed by six seasons as an assistant coach with the Condors after they were promoted to the AHL and became the farm team of the Edmonton Oilers. He left the Condors to become head coach of the Rocket in 2021.

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